Roots travel to San Diego for the Wednesday night matchup on the 24th at 7:00 p.m. Coming off of only one game in the last 28 days, the Roots have mostly seen their rivals for the last playoff positions flounder, leaving the Roots’ destiny largely in their own hands. However, some stuff happened this week, and it is not clear at all what the Roots can do with their last nine matches. Some of those matches are easy. This one will not be.
A Look Around the Western Conference
Roots are three points above last and four points below a playoff position that could conceivably result in a home playoff game (but like, it wouldn’t). Phoenix have clawed some points back and Monterey Bay has climbed fully out of the basement. El Paso is basically in free fall, but the same utter uselessness of the Roots’ rivals that has benefitted the Roots has prevented those rivals from completely overtaking El Paso. Colorado Springs likewise is basically stuck, but only Sac has really gained much ground on them. Meanwhile, San Antonio remains the overall league leader in points, with San Diego in third (although Memphis is only a point behind with a game in hand).
San Diego are 10-0-3 in their last 13. I have very little to offer to make that less scary. They only have one really quality win over that period, but it’s a 3-0 dismantling of league leader San Antonio that did not involve any red cards or penalties.
On August 10 they beat Monterey Bay 1-0 in San Diego.
Loyal had 17 shots, 4 on target, some better than others, but Loyal were absolutely gifted a penalty in the 57th. Often a penalty is earned by the attacked for forcing the defender into a position with no good options. This was not one of those–the Union defender slid to intercept a cross and the ball bounced up into his arm that was, to be fair, away from his body in an unnatural position. Not a wrong penalty, but still a bullshit penalty.
On August 13 they lost 1-0 away to Birmingham.
Former USMNT striker Juan Agudelo put Birmingham up in the 20th on a pretty remarkable header off of a corner kick. San Diego mustered only two shots on goal in the game.
This past Saturday they beat El Paso 3-1 in El Paso.
Loyal scored early, middle, and late in this one, opening the scoring on a Vassell breakaway in the 17th. El Paso had an equalizer saved by the bar in the 33rd. Thomas Amang’s goal to make it 2-0 in the 43rd was well played by San Diego, but like four El Paso players on defense probably could have done something. This is El Paso playing the way they did when the Roots eviscerated them. El Paso scored an Olimpico in the 70th, which is very funny, with Loyal’s keeper getting a yellow for whining that he was interfered with. Like five minutes later Loyal took their two-goal lead back again capitalizing on El Paso being about 30% invested in this game.
|3/26||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Home||L||2||3|
|3/30||New Mexico United||Away||D||2||2|
|4/02||Tampa Bay Rowdies||Home||D||0||0|
|4/13||January 6 Apologists SC||Home||D||2||2|
|4/30||Colorado Springs Troop Appreciators||Home||L||0||3|
|5/14||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Away||D||1||1|
|5/21||Galaxia de Carson, Two||Home||W||1||0|
|5/28||Central Valley Republic||Home||D||1||1|
|6/4||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Away||W||2||0|
|6/15||New Mexico United||Home||L||1||2|
|6/22||Five Shades of Gray, F.C.||Away||D||1||1|
|7/01||“The Two” but California||Away||L||1||3|
|7/16||More like Ex Paso, Right? Is that a thing? What about Lol Paso?||Home||W||4||0|
|7/23||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Home||L||0||2|
When we last spoke, the Roots were heading off to Detroit to play a team that fancies itself the class of USL.
The Roots should stop conceding stupid goals.
I don’t really know where to talk about the manager situation. I don’t even really know what I think about it. I know next to nothing about Noah Delgado, but I don’t know if anyone could take over a team with about three days of notice and try to win a match. We talked about this more on this week’s RootsPod and you should listen to that (and RT for a chance to win some Wendy’s). Jon has a post coming today with some more details about Delgado’s staff.
Players to Watch
Kyle Vassell #9 – Northern Ireland-international Vassell was dueling with Karlsson for the golden boot lead earlier in the season, but fell off some in May. He now sits on twelve (in a four-way tie for sixth) and has scored twice in Loyal’s four games in August. Vassell is not quite a certified large lad, standing only 6′, but he is at least thick for a striker. With his 12th, this became Vassell’s most productive professional season, and he is in his striking prime at age 28.
Kyle Adams #32 – Kyle Adams is a real person, not just a combination of the other two names on this list (this team also features two Martins–it’s like Football Manager was running out of disk space when it got to Loyal). This Kyle/Adams is a 25-year-old kiwi who plays in the middle of Loyal’s back three. Adams has been in USL since 2018, mostly with RGV Toros. He came up with the youth system of Auckland-based “Western Suburbs FC,” so I am sure he feels right at home in San Diego.
Charlie Adams #6 – English midfielder Adams has four goals and seven(!) assists on the season. Adams is Fotmob’s highest rated player on Loyal. Adams made the official USL Team of the week for his performance against Monterey Bay where he made essentially no mistakes and scored the winning penalty. Adams came up with the Brentford academy and played a handful of minutes with their first team in successive League One seasons in 12-13 and 13-14.
Alejandro Guido #10 – Loyal have an unending supply of top quality defensive midfielders (we are not even highlighting Collin Martin here). Guido is from San Diego and has four goals and three assists and, like everyone else on this team, is playing out of his freaking gourd.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I think that Delgado plays it safe, and mostly starts the same system Juan was using. I am very curious to know if he sticks with that for the rest of the system–in a way I doubt it–but I just think it would be a lot for the players to change system with such little notice. I agree with Jon that the training video suggests Karlsson isn’t back yet. I think if Nane is fully fit he might get the nod in central midfield alongside Jose. I think there is also a logic to starting Chuy on the road against a better opponent. He and Formella can look to break on quick through-balls from Johnsen/Hernandez off of turnovers. It might be too conservative, but it’s possible that Delgado plays Fissore in the midfield with Nane/Hernandez and only plays two forwards. I might not hate that for a team in flux, but it might also just do nothing in a game where a draw is close to as bad as a loss for the Roots. On that note, 2-0 San Diego. Sorry. They are really good.
I’m going no changes from the recent lineup in Detroit City. The Roots dropped a two minute video on Twitter of Noah Delgado’s practice on Tuesday and it featured no sign of Ottar Magnus Karlsson. It appears that his baby must still be on the way. With Karlsson out and a new coach in with less than a week to prepare, I think minimal changes makes the most sense. Having the road trip to Sacramento coming quickly on Saturday also makes things difficult on Delgado’s staff to make any alterations in the immediate future. All that considered, I’m going with a 1-0 Roots victory, Formella scores.
Let’s get weird, I say. For whatever reason, I think we’ll see a wrinkle on the sorts of game plans Roots have been running out all season. I’ve thrown out one possibility. I think we could also see Mfeka and Chuy make appearances in this one, and possibly even a Mariona cameo. Loyal’s defense can be got at (although its been stouter recently), and on the road I think the priority has to be getting the first goal. Loyal also have a lot of firepower, but you’ve got to fight fire with fire. I’m hoping for a barn burner. 2-2.